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Engineering Physics

  1. Apr 13, 2005 #1
    Well I'm goin into my second year of engineering physics, and the funny thing is that I dont really know what they really do. I've always loved physics and after high school I have been greatly interested in quantum mechanics, theoretical phyics and calculas. Call me a nerd but it intreques me. My question is where will this degree take me? Also note that I hate writing computer programs using C++ stuff like that. I find it far to painful.

    I have been told I could work with light properties as the new age of computers will be powered by light, rather than current. And say if I wanted to work subatomically or using quantum mechanics am I in the right course??
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2005 #2

    I'm currently into my third year of engineering physics. You sound pretty much like me: into science, into maths, and more focused on the theoretical side of things than the practical side. I'm going to assume that this is more or less how you feel, and simply tell you the direction I'm now taking/planning in the future:

    I have been told I could work with light properties as the new age of computers will be powered by light, rather than current. And say if I wanted to work subatomically or using quantum mechanics am I in the right course??

    As far as I know: yes. Here in Belgium, there are two major directions you can follow up after a Bachelor Degree in Engineering Physics: a major in Physical Engineering (the 'general' thing), and a major in Photonics.

    (Keep thinking 'Here in Belgium' in everything I write.) Normally, after this Bachelor Degree you should have at least some background in quantum mechanics. Subatomical physics is one of the branches of 'general' Physical Engineering, and of course this is mainly quantum stuff to work with ... of course, subatomical particles are pretty complex, and so there is definitely some computer work involved. If you are allergic to oscilloscopes and writing basic programs in C++, then be prepared to cure that allergy or you don't really have a future. Don't get scared though: these C++ programs are really just very, very basic things, nothing complex about it (you could write them in Java or in Matlab or Root or whatever semi-logic semi-math program you are experienced with). Also, oscilloscopes are pretty user-friendly once you get used to them.

    Myself I'm going to do my master in Photonics: working with light. Indeed, many people are saying as you heard that the coming century will be centered around light. Already we have optical communication over the internet with glass fiber. Already people are using the advantages of photons over electrons inside computers (photons can cross each other without any Coulomb Force disturbing transmission- they don't have a charge... this makes parallel computing possible); only the computation of signals is still electronic (there are no commercial all-optic computers available yet). However, there is a lot of stuff going on, optical logic gates being made, optical chips, ... the science of it all is booming and we are still not too late to join the ride.

    It's pretty evident that working with light means working with quantum mechanics. No subatomic level stuff though. But instead of that, you'll probably hear about stuff like liquid crystals and plasma (which both have been called the 4th aggregate state of matter; though they are not quite the same), mainly in the context of image screening, you'll hear about lasers.. maybe (that would be cool but I doubt it) there is a future to be found in atmospheric optics, i.e. describing the colours in the sky, in oil on water, .. at least, you'll be able to explain stuff like that after your graduation.
    Then there's quantum cryptography... which is more of a side-road to the photonics highway, but also pretty cool.

    Just think how cool it would be to have a computer run at the speed of light...

    btw, some people believe that the future is found in a combo of photonics and organic materials inside computers ...
  4. Apr 18, 2005 #3
    Ya its not that I am no good at C++ I just cant really find it interesting. Maybe it will be better when I see a purpose to using it. Thanks for the response
  5. Apr 18, 2005 #4

    Tom Mattson

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    Hello, I'm Tom, and I have a BS in Engineering Physics.

    They go to graduate school. :smile:

    At least at my school (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Engineering Physics is a sort of "pre-advanced-study" major. It has the versatility to prepare you for graduate study in physics, nuclear engineering, electrical engineering, or materials engineering (I had classmates that went into each of these fields). Of course, you have to have an idea of what you want to do so that you can tailor your electives towards a specific field for grad school.

    One word of caution though: This major sounded like a great idea when I was an undergrad. But then I went to graduate school for physics, and I found that I was lacking a bit in math when I got there. Engineering physics is good if you plan to go into experimental physics, but I went into theory. I had a lot of catching up to do. I'd advise anyone wanting to go into theoretical physics to instead double major in physics and math.
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